Repentance and forgiveness are mentioned hand-in-hand throughout the Qur’an and hold
great importance in Islam. The word repentance, Tawbah in Arabic, appears over thirty times.
Juz Tabarak begins with Surah Mulk, The Dominion and ends with Surah Mursalaat, The Emissaries.
Through the Qur’an and the Ahadith of Allah's Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) people are encouraged to ask for forgiveness as we are always in a state of perpetual sin, and thus Allah calls himself a ‘Perpetual Forgiver’ - Al-Ghaffar. Islamically, man is born sin-free, a fresh soul with a clean slate. Yet, the nature of human beings is to make mistakes and sin. There is no 'perfect' person today and with the demise of prophets and saints, we are left with scriptures, our teachers and prayers to cleanse ourselves.
I chose to write about the topic of Tawbah as the Sheikh of the Juz Tabarak course repeatedly advised us to seek forgiveness before it’s too late, as only Allah knows what will happen tomorrow, therefore we must do something valuable today.
In the 29th Juz from the first to the last chapter Allah reminds us:
‘Indeed, those who fear their Lord unseen will have forgiveness and great reward.’ (Surah al-Mulk, 67:12)Due to our state of perpetual need and desire, acting on evil impulses creates a type of stain, or rust on our hearts that Allah refers to Surah Mutafifeen, Verse 14: “Nay, but that which they have earned is rust upon their hearts”. Over time this 'Ra'an' thickens to a layer a blackness like tar. This type of heart is very far from Allah as it does not repent, nor is it sincere but focused only on his/her own desires e.g. seven deadly sins, greed, lust etc.
Thus, if one falls into this state and doesn't turn back to repentance, one will not feel any connection with the Creator, rather he/she feels depressed and hopeless. As we see today both in the Muslim Ummah and the rest of the world, various people are falling into a state of bleakness, chronic depression and sadness. These emotional sicknesses are major signs of not knowing how to and not doing repentance. Instead of turning to Allah to fill the voids in our hearts, we turn to things that will please them temporarily in this world - ‘Dunya’. Family, food, friends, fame - they are not illegal, they are not unlawful, but too much of a good thing makes one ungrateful.
Allah tells us that despite sins, despite having weaknesses or feeling low, as His creation we are not to lose hope entirely,
"O my Servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the Mercy of Allah: for Allah forgives all sins: for He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful” (Surah Az-Zumar, 39:53)As human beings we can never reach perfection, but always aim for it in our lives, as only the Prophet of God, Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) reached spiritual perfection in his lifetime. As Allah is the All-Knowing He is aware of our human nature of continuous sin. He provides us with a means of purification through seeking forgiveness by ‘Tawbah’. ‘Indeed, He is knowing of that within the breasts’ Surah al-Mulk. He knows our own nature better than ourselves, as He is the One who made us: “Verily, your Lord is the All-Knowing Creator”. (Surah Al-Hijr, Verse 86)
What Is Tawbah?
Tawbah is an Arabic word, coming from the root 'to turn back' - that is, to turn back to the correct method, the shortest route, the best option and the truth.
Recognising Allah as the Al-Ghaffar, Oft-Forgiving and Ar-Raheem, Most Merciful is the first stage in repenting. Then turning to Him and asking for His forgiveness is what matters for the human soul. The best times to seek forgiveness are when Allah's Mercy descends to the lowest heaven- during the last portion of the night, and when one is in prostration ‘Sujood’, as this is when a person is physically and spiritually closest to Allah.
Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said: “Turn to Allah, O people, offer repentance and seek His forgiveness. I myself offer repentance to Allah a hundred times a day.” (Muslim)
Even though Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم) is described as the best of creation and a perfect example, he too sought forgiveness often, hence we must follow his example. We all depend on Allah's Mercy.
True Muslims that believe in Allah’s infinite mercy fill with happiness and gratitude after receiving this message and learn to turn to Allah immediately. As Prophet Muhammad told us (صلى الله عليه وسلم) said in a Hadith Qudsi,
“Allah said: O Son of Ādam, so long as you call upon Me and ask of Me, I shall forgive you for what you have done, and I shall not mind. O son of Ādam, were your sins to reach the clouds of the sky and were you then to ask for forgiveness of Me, I would forgive you; O son of Ādam, were you to come to Me with sins nearly as great as the earth and were you then to face Me, ascribing no partner to Me, I would bring you forgiveness nearly as great as it.” (Tirmidhī)After reading this one would think no one would ever be miserable again, as Allah’s forgiveness is immense. Yet people in their ignorance don’t turn to Allah as often as they should, or in a manner in which they should. Allah’s gates are always open for forgiveness; all we have to do is ask. He never says no.
In Surah al-Mulk alone Allah calls himself the ‘Most Merciful’ three times. It is the arrogant devil that makes our tongues hesitate in doing Istighfaar (seeking forgiveness), but Muslims must overcome this mental barrier. If we don’t repent we are inching closer to the terrible punishments Allah has promised the evil doers, when death comes, in their graves, on Judgement Day and finally in Hellfire. Allah warns us about these things out of his Love and Mercy as He wants to save us from it, so He warns us. “And indeed the Qur’an is a reminder for the righteous” (Surah Haqqah, Verse 48) Out of Allah’s Mercy we have this guidance. Now what do we do with it?
How To Seek Forgiveness
The importance of seeking forgiveness right now is great as death is inevitable and we do not know when the angel of death will come. The exact day and time of our death was written when the angel of spirits blew life into us in our mother’s wombs. No one can escape it, and no one is perfectly purified to be ready for it. Prophet Nuh (عليه السلام) was told:
‘Allah will forgive you of your sins and delay you for a specified term. Indeed, the time (set by) Allah, when it comes, will not be delayed, if only you knew.’
The 29th Juz Tabarak is full of truth about the after life (Akhirah) for us to wake up and start practising Islam properly. We see in Juz Tabarak that whenever Allah mentions punishments, or the disbelievers, He also mentions the rewards for the believers, as there is always hope of forgiveness in the Qur’an. A balance of right and wrong, the Mizaan of justice.
We repent by admitting our faults to Allah and turning to him with a sincere and needy heart and not deliberately repeating that sin. Sincerity and humility is vital when one is turning to Allah, because whenever arrogance is mentioned in the Qur’an it refers to the qualities of those who deserve Hellfire. Anything a Muslim does, even making supplication (Du`aa) for forgiveness, should be done only for the sake of Allah. “And whosoever repents and does righteous good deeds, and then verily, he repents towards Allah with true repentance.” (Surah al-Furqaan, Verse 71) You have to follow up the intention with genuine actions. This is what Allah means by true repentance.
It is also vital to note that performing good deeds after repenting is mentioned frequently in the Qur’an. After one has repented a sign of knowing that prayer has been accepted is him/her doing good deeds and easily performing them. Once you are in a state of cleansing repentance it is necessary to keep polishing the heart by continuing the the Tawbah daily. After every Salaah Prophet Muhammad would make Tawbah, as even he did not depend on his own actions entirely. Doing ablution ‘Wudhu’ and performing prayers ‘Salaah’ are a form of repentance as they are a means of cleansing ourselves five times a day.
To conclude, from studying the Qur’an, in particular Juz Tabarak, I have learnt and clearly understood the two paths we may follow; good and evil, the two destinations that are prepared; Jannah and Jahanam, and the two types of people that exist; humble and arrogant. We have a choice to make now, and some of us have already made it as to which of the two categories we want to fall into.
The Muslim will strive with every effort to make it to Jannah, and the most effective and powerful tool to get there is continuous Istighfaar. A Muslim will appreciate that tomorrow may never come but does not remorse or fill with misery as Allah is Ar-Rahman and Ar-Raheem and willing to forgive at any moment in their life. He/she knows his life is short and full of problems and difficulties, but he still works hard to purify his heart. Dying spiritually cleansed is what a Muslim aims for, but it is his choice to act now by simply uttering ‘Astaghfirullah’ from his/her heart, with tears of guilt and awareness of Allah’s greatness and mercy.
“He who created death and life to test you as to which of you is best in deed- and He is the Exalted in Might, the Forgiving”. (Surah al-Mulk Verse 2)
Image: Sunnah Is Life